Born and raised in East Islip (Islip Terrace), Long Island, New York, and currently residing in Syracuse,New York, forty-two year old Cali West has certainly made her mark on the national dart scene.
Currently showing at number four (as of the post recent printing September 2010) in the American Dart Organization’s national ranking list, Cali is a force to be reckoned with.
Cali was introduced to darts fairly early on in life by the son (Jim III) of her cousin, Jim Birmingham. Many will remember the elder Jim to be one of the most beloved and successful dart players to ever come out of the New York area. Back in those days, darts was an activity that was played on occasion with Jim III for fun and something she never really thought of taking it seriously.
When Cali was eighteen she left Long Island to head upstate for college and it was during the summer of her senior year that she first joined a dart league, however, it would be another ten years before she walked into a dart store to buy a new set of darts, was throwing on a board testing them out, and was asked by the guy working in the store asked if would be interested in joining a league.
Starting out in B division, Cali was asked by an all women’s team to join them; unfortunately they finished in last place that season. Although feeling that she was fairly competitive with her throwing skills, Cali’s downside back then was that she didn’t know the outs. These days she plays in the Salt City Dart League’s upper tier, A division, out of her favorite bar Dodester’s, located on the west side of Syracuse, and those pesky outs are no longer an issue for her.
Her first tournament going back to 2000 was the Syracuse Open dart tournament, placing in the top eight of singles 01, losing to Kim Whaley who went on to win the event. Three years later at the same event, Cali first met one of Canada’s leading dart ladies Robin Curry, who not long after became her regular ladies double partner, and here begins her decision to travel throughout the US and Canada pursuing a goal to make it to the top. It also just so happens that the Syracuse Open continues to be her favorite event, normally aligning itself with her birthday weekend, leading to some great times and very special memories of the tournament.
Throwing a 24 gram Voks ELC, Cali believes that you must be willing to take the time to have technical practices. She follows a very mechanical and methodological based procedure for practicing, trying to be in front of the board every night for at least an hour. For her these practices are solitary, believing that it is crucial in understanding how to fix what’s going wrong in a short period of time.
She does admit on rare occasions she may not feel like practicing, and how she confronts this is by evaluating if the practice at that time would be counterproductive, but she goes on to say, "most times I just tell myself, I’ve gotten here because of my practice. It’s almost like meditation for me, I really do enjoy it, and only after a long weekend I might give the arm a rest."
In addition to the steel darts, she will dabble in soft tip, however it has never captured her heart or interest the way steel has. Attending on average one electronic tournament a year, she finds it to be a fun time and the people she has met there a riot, but notes she won’t let the electronic game interfere or take away from her steel game.
Staying focused at a tournament can at times be a challenge, especially if an event has a bracket that has gotten backed up, so in between rounds, Cali just tries to stay relaxed. If she’s had a long wait since her last match, she’ll jump on a board to keep the arm warm, but says that normally she just likes to hang out with people, laugh and have a good time. She further goes on to state, "One of the greatest things about tournaments are the people, so I like to see everyone."
Every dart player to ever grace a toe line has faced a devastating loss and how it is handled changes from player to player. For many players it changes as experience is gained, and it’s changed for Cali over the years as well. In the beginning not taking it so well, never wanting to lose and putting everything she had into every game, would lead to frustration, however through personal growth and time, she now understands that when she comes up short, she simply tries to remind herself that it’s just one game, and that there are other events to be played. Sometimes just to wipe it away she’ll take a walk outside or throughout the hotel.
A message for dart players everywhere can be found in Cali’s philosophy, "It’s important to remind yourself that you are allowed to screw up or have a bad day. One of the biggest things you can learn in the game is to move on from those difficult losses."
Some of Cali’s emotional evolution through the years may have come from her partnership with Robin. She explains that early on, when she first watched Robin play, she’d follow her around the room. At the time, she didn’t really know who Robin was, but did know that she wanted to model her own behavior after her, commenting, "Robin had so much respect for her opponents, and brought so much class into the game."
It is also this partnership that led Cali to start traveling. She says, "When we started traveling we were making money and winning events. The ability to make some money doing what you love to do is just the best, and tournaments really let you see what you are made of."
It is important to understand however that traveling is an expensive endeavor, and although money can be made, Cali has struggled with being able to afford all of this jet setting. She has literally gone to tournaments banking solely on the faith in her self to make enough money to get back home. She notes that the price for hotels, food, gas, and entry fee’s is very tough to make ends meet with ladies payouts. She does credit her employer, Voss Signsfor the financial support supplied from time to time, and in an exciting piece of news, she’s just signed an exclusive sponsorship through Voks Darts (www.voksdarts.com).
In the upcoming years Cali would really love to make more of a splash internationally, stating that her biggest goal is to become a bit more consistent in her play and tournaments results, as well as to play on the international scene. Her goal is already in the works, having won the Quebec Open back in January 2010, she earned her spot representing the United States at the Winmau World Masters where she finished in the last 32 dropping to internationally ranked #5, Julie Gore of Wales. Julie was the eventual winner of the Masters, and in Cali’s own words says, "It always hurts less to lose to the eventual winner!"
In discussing her experience at the Masters, Cali had mentioned that she had gone over as a spectator the two years prior to watch Robin play, so she was actually prepared for how it ran, what to expect and that the losers of each match chalk the following match. She did admit however that she was a bit disappointed that the men were in a separate, more grandiose location, however, all the women from the U.S. (Andrea Taylor, Brenda Roush, Kim LeDuc and Debbie Ivey) did a great job supporting each other.
Cali enjoys giving back to the sport that she loves and says that when she attends a tournament and meets someone new to the game, she tries to give them encouragement, maybe noting their stroke, or a good shot that they made. She says, "I want to be a positive representative of the sport. This is my way of giving back." Additionally, Cali is the local ADO rep of her area, where she attempts to drum up interest in the area players to join the ADO. She works extremely hard in keeping everyone well informed on what’s going on, and she puts out a little newsletter every other month, believing in the importance of helping everyone at the local level understand what’s going on and what they need to do if the interest is there to grow and expand their play.
Cali West has a long and prosperous future in the sport; she is a fierce and determined competitor, who has a high respect for those around her. With an extraordinary love and passion for the game of darts there is no doubt that she can reach the top and succeed in her goals.
By: Tina Digregorio
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